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driving four of them in hand, while the sixth
ran alongside as an outrider — could have won-
dered that I should find school better than
home. Before the first day was over, the sor-
rows of the lost watch and sword had vanished
utterly. For what was possession to being
possessed? What was a watch, even had it
been going, to the movements of life 1 To
peep from the wicket in the great gate out upon
the village street, with the well in the middle
of it, and a girl in the sunshine winding up the
green dripping bucket from the unknown depths
of coolness, was more than a thousand watches.
But this was by no means the extent of my
new survey of things. One of the causes of
Mr. Elder's keeping no boy who required chas-
tisement was his own love of freedom, and his
consequent desire to give the boys as much lib-



I GO TO SCHOOL, AND GRANNIE LEAVES IT. 95

erty out of school hours as possible. Be believed
in freedom. " The great end of training," he
said to me many years after, when he was quite
an old man, " is liberty ; and the sooner you
can get a boy to be a law to himself, the sooner
you make a man of him. This end is im-
possible without freedom. Let those who have
no choice, or who have not the same end in
view, do the best they can with such boys as
they find : I chose only such as could bear lib-
erty. I never set up as a reformer — only as an
educator. For that kind of work others were
more fit than I. It was not my calling." Hence
Mr. Elder no more allowed labour to intrude
upon play, than play to intrude upon labour.
As soon as lessons were over, we were free to
go where we would and do what we would,
under certain general restrictions, which had
more to do with social proprieties than with
school regulations. We roamed the country
from tea-time till sun-down ; sometimes in the
Summer long after that. Sometimes also on
moonlit nights in Winter, occasionally even
when the stars and the snow gave the only
light, we were allowed the same liberty until



9f> WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

Dearly bedtime. Before Christmas came,
variety, exercise, and social blessedness had
wrought upon me so that when I returned home,
my uncle and aunt were astonished at the
change in me. I had grown half a head, and
the paleness, which they had considered a
peculiar accident of my appearance, had given
place to a rosy glow. My flitting step too
had vanished : I soon became aware that
I made more noise than my aunt liked, for
in the old house silence was in its very tem-
ple. My uncle, however, would only smile and
say—

" Don't bring the place about our ears,
Willie, my boy. I should like it to last my
time."

"I'm afraid," my aunt would interpose, "Mr.
Elder doesn't keep very good order in his
school."

Then I would fire up in defence of the master,
and my uncle would sit and listen, looking both
pleased and amused.

I had not been many moments in the house
before I said —

" Mayn't I run up and see grannie, uncle V



I GO TO SCHOOL, AND GRANXIE LEAVES IT. 97

" I will go and see how she is," my aunt said,
rising.

She went, and presently returning said —

" Grannie seems a little better. You may
come. She wants to see you."

I followed her. When I entered the room
and looked expectantly towards her usual place,
I found her chair empty. I turned to the bed.
There she was, and I thought she looked much
the same ; but when I came nearer, I perceived
a change in her countenance. She welcomed
me feebly, stroked my hair and my cheeks,
smiled sweetly, and closed her eyes. My aunt
led me away.

When bedtime came, I went to my own room,
and was soon fast asleep. What roused me I
do not know, but I awoke in the midst of the
darkness, and the next moment I heard a groan.
It thrilled me with horror. I sat up in bed and
listened, but heard no more. As I sat listening,
heedless of the cold, the explanation dawned
upon me, for my powers of reflection and com-
bination had been developed by my enlarged
experience of life. In our many wanderings, I
had learned to choose between roads and to
VOL. I. H



98 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

make conjectures from the lie of the country. I
had likewise lived in a far larger house than my
home. Hence it now dawned upon me, for the
first time, that grannie's room must be next to
mine, although approached from the other side,
and that the groan must have been hers. She
might be in need of help. I remembered at
the same time how she had wished to have me by
her in the middle of the night, that she might
be able to tell me what she could not recall in
the day. I got up at once, dressed myself, and
stole down the one stair, across the kitchen,
and up the other. I gently opened grannie's
door and peeped in. A fire was burning in the
room. I entered and approached the bed. I
wonder how I had the courage ; but children
more than grown people are moved by unlikely
impulses. Grannie lay breathing heavily. I
stood for a moment. The faint light flickered
over her white face. It was the middle of the
night, and the tide of fear inseparable from the
night began to rise. My old fear of her began
to return with it. But she lifted her lids, and
the terror ebbed away. She looked at me, but
did not seem to know me. I went nearer.



I GO TO SCHOOL, AXD GRANNIE LEAVES IT. 99

11 Grannie," I said, close to her ear, and speak-
ing low ; " You wanted to see me at night —
that was before I went to school. I'm here,
grannie."

The sheet was folded back so smooth that she
could hardly have turned over since it had been
arranged for the night. Her hand was lying
upon it. She lifted it feebly and stroked my
cheek once more. Her lips murmured some-
thing which I could not hear, and then came a
deep sigh, almost a groan. The terror re-
turned when I found she could not speak to
me.

" Shall I go and fetch auntie !" I whispered.

She shook her head feebly, and looked wistfully
at me. Her lips moved again. I guessed that
she wanted me to sit beside her. I got a chair,
placed it by the bedside, and sat down. She put
out her hand, as if searching for something.
I laid mine in it. She closed her fingers upon
it and seemed satisfied. "When I looked again,
she was asleep and breathing quietly. I was
afraid to take my hand from hers lest I should
wake her. I laid my head on the side of the
bed, and was soon fast asleep also.

h2



100 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

I was awaked by a noise in the room. It was
Nannie laying the fire. When she saw me she
gave a cry of terror.

" Hush, Nannie !" I said ; " you will wake
grannie ;" and as I spoke I rose, for I found my
hand was free.

" Oh, Master Willie !" said Nannie, in a low
voice ; " how did you come here ? You sent
my heart into my mouth."

" Swallow it again, Nannie," I answered,
" and don't tell auntie. I came to see grannie,
and fell asleep. I'm rather cold. I'll go to bed
now. Auntie's not up, is she ?"

" No. It's not time for anybody to be up
yet."

Nannie ought to have spent the night in
grannie's room, for it was her turn to watch ;
but finding her nicely asleep as she thought, she
had slipped away for just an hour of comfort in
bed. The hour had grown to three. When she
returned the fire was out.

When I came down to breakfast, the solemn
look upon my uncle's face caused me a forebod-
ing of change.

" God has taken grannie away in the night,



I GO TO SCHOOL, AND GRAXXIE LEAVES IT. 101

Willie," said he, holding the hand I had placed
in his.

" Is she dead I" I asked.

" Yes," he answered.

" Oh, then, you will let her go to her grave
now, won't you?" I said — the recollection of
her old grievance coming first in association
with her death, and occasioning a more childish
speech than belonged to my years.

" Yes. She'll get to her grave now," said my
aunt, with a trembling in her voice I had never
heard before.

" No," objected my uncle. " Her body will
go to the grave, but her soul will go to
heaven."

" Her soul!" I said, "What's that?"

" Dear me, Willie ! don't you know that !" said
my aunt. " Don't you know you've got a soul
as well as a body I"

" I'm sure / haven't," I returned. " What was
grannie's like ?"

" That I can't tell you," she answered.

" Have you got one, auntie ?"

" Yes."

" What is yours like then !"



102 WILFRID CUMBEmiEDE.

" I don't know."

" But," I said, turning to my uncle, " if her
body goes to the grave, and her soul to heaven,
what's to become of poor grannie — without
either of them, you see V

My uncle had been thinking while we talked.

" That can't be the way to represent the
thing, Jane ; it puzzles the child. No, Willie ;
grannie's body goes to the grave, but grannie
herself is gone to heaven. What people call her
soul is just grannie herself."

" Why don't they say so, then ?"

My uncle fell a- thinking again. He did not,
however, answer this last question, for I suspect
he found that it would not be good for me to
know the real cause — namely, that people hard-
ly believed it, and therefore did not say it.
Most people believe far more in their bodies
than in their souls. What my uncle did say
was —

"I hardly know. But grannie's gone to
heaven anyhow."

" I'm so glad !" I said. " She will be more
comfortable there. She was too old, you know,
uncle."



I GO TO SCHOOL, AXD GRAXXIE LEAVES IT. 103

He made no reply. My aunt's apron was
covering her face, and when she took it away,
I observed that those eager almost angry eyes
were red with weepiDg. I began to feel a
movement at my heart, the first fluttering
physical sign of a waking love towards her.

" Don't cry, auntie," I said. " I don't see
anything to cry about. Grannie has got wdiat
she wanted."

She made me no answer, and I sat down to
my breakfast. I don't know how it was, but I
could not eat it. I rose and took my way to
the hollow in the field. I felt a strange excite-
ment, not sorrow. Grannie was actually dead
at last. I did not quite know what it meant.
I had never seen a dead body. Neither did I
know that she had died while I slept with my
hand in hers. Nannie, seeing something pecu-
liar, had gone to her the moment I left the
room, and had found her quite cold. Had we
been a talking family, I might have been un-
easy until 1 had told the story of my last inter-
view with her ; but I never thought of saying a
word about it. I cannot help thinking now that
I was waked up and sent to the old woman, my



104 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

great-grandmother, in the middle of the night,
to help her to die in comfort. Who knows ?
What we can neither prove nor comprehend
forms, I suspect, the infinitely larger part of our
being.

When I was taken to see what remained of
grannie, I experienced nothing of the dismay
which some children feel at the sight of death.
It was as if she had seen something just in time
to leave the look of it behind her there, and so
the final expression was a revelation. For a
while there seems to remain this one link be-
tween some dead bodies and their living spirits.
But my aunt, with a common superstition,
would have me touch the face. That, I confess,
made me shudder : the cold of death is so un-
like any other cold ! I seemed to feel it in my
hand all the rest of the day.

I saw what seemed grannie — I am too near
death myself to consent to call a dead body the
man or the woman — laid in the grave for which
she had longed, and returned home with a sense
that somehow there was a barrier broken down
between me and my uncle and aunt. I felt as
near my uncle now as I had ever been. That



I GO TO SCHOOL, AND GRANNIE LEAVES IT. 105

evening he did not go to his own room, but sat
with my aunt and me in the kitchen-hall. We
pulled the great high-backed oaken settle before
the fire, and my aunt made a great blaze, for it
was very cold. They sat one in each corner,
and I sat between them, and told them many
things concerning the school. They asked me
questions and encouraged my prattle, seeming
well pleased that the old silence should be
broken. I fancy I brought them a little nearer
to each other that night. It was after a fune-
ral, and yet they both looked happier than I
had ever seen them before.



106



CHAPTER IX,



I SIM AND REPENT.



rpHE Christmas holidays went by more rapidly
* than I had expected. I betook myself
with enlarged faculty to my book-mending, and
more than ever enjoyed making my uncle's old
volumes tidy. When I returned to school, it
was with real sorrow at parting froin my uncle ;
and even towards my aunt I now felt a growing
attraction.

I shall not dwell upon my school history.
That would be to spin out my narrative un-
necessarily. 1 shall only relate such occurrences
as are guide-posts in the direction of those main
events which properly constitute my history.

I had been about two years with Mr. Elder.
The usual holidays had intervened, upon which
occasions I found the pleasures of home so mul-



I SIX AXD REPEXT. 107

tiplied by increase of liberty and the enlarged
confidence of iny uncle, who took me about with
him everywhere, that they were now almost
capable of rivalling those of school. But before
I relate an incident which occurred in the second
Autumn, I must say a few words about my cha-
racter at this time.

My reader will please to remember that I had
never been driven, or oppressed in any way.
The affair of the watch was quite an isolated
instance, and so immediately followed by the
change and fresh life of school that it had not
left a mark behind. Nothing had yet occurred
to generate in me any fear before the face of
man. I had been vaguely uneasy in relation to
my grandmother, but that uneasiness had almost
vanished before her death. Hence the faith
natural to childhood had received no check.
My aunt was at worst cold ; she had never been
harsh ; while over Nannie I was absolute ruler.
The only time that evil had threatened me, I
had been faithfully defended by my guardian
uncle. At school, while I found myself more
under law, I yet found myself possessed of
greater freedom. Every one was friendly and



108 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

more than kind. From all this the result was
that my nature was unusually trusting.

We had a whole holiday, and, all seven, set
out to enjoy ourselves. It was a delicious
morning- in Autumn, clear and cool, with a great
light in the east, and the west nowhere.
Neither the autumnal tints nor the sharpening
wiud had any sadness in those young years
which we call the old years afterwards. How
strange it seems to have — all of us— to say with
the Jewish poet : I have been young, and now
am old ! A wood in the distance, rising up the
slope of a hill, was our goal, for we were after
hazel-nuts. Frolicking, scampering, leaping
over stiles, we felt the road vanish under our
feet. When we gained the wood, although we
failed in our quest, we found plenty of amuse-
ment ; that grew everywhere. At length it
was time to return, and we resolved on going
home by another road — one we did not know.

After walking a good distance, we arrived at
a gate and lodge, where we stopped to inquire
the way. A kind-faced woman informed us
that we should shorten it much by going
through the park, which, as we seemed respect-



I SIX AND REPENT. 109

able boys, she would allow us to do. We
thanked her, entered, and went walking along
a smooth road, through open sward, clumps of
trees, and an occasional piece of artful neglect
in the shape of rough hillocks covered with
wild shrubs, such as brier and broom. It was
very delightful, and we walked along merrily.
I can yet recall the individual shapes of certain
hawthorn trees we passed, whose extreme age
had found expression in a wild grotesqueness
which would have been ridiculous but for a dim,
painful resemblance to the distortion of old age
in the human family.

After walking some distance, we began to
doubt whether we might not have missed the
way to the gate of which the woman had spoken.
For a wall appeared, which, to judge from the
tree-tops visible over it, must surround a kitchen
garden or orchard; and from this we feared we
had come too nigh the house. We had not
gone much further before a branch, projecting
over the wall, from whose tip, as if the tempter
had gone back to his old tricks, hung a rosy-
cheeked apple, drew our eyes and arrested our
steps. There are grown people who cannot,



110 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

without an effort of the imagination, figure to
themselves the attraction between a boy and an
apple ; but I suspect there are others the
memories of whose boyish freaks will render it
yet more difficult for them to understand a
single moment's contemplation of such an object
without the endeavour to appropriate it. To
them the boy seems made for the apple, and the
apple for the boy. Rosy, round-faced, spec-
tacled Mr. Elder, however, had such a fine sense
of honour in himself that he had been to a rare
degree successful in developing a similar sense
in his boys, and I do believe that not one of us
would, under any circumstances, except pos-
sibly those of terrifying compulsion, have pulled
that apple. We stood in rapt contemplation
for a few moments, and then walked away. But
although there are no degrees in Virtue, who
will still demand her uttermost farthing, there
are degrees in the virtuousness of human beings.
As we walked away, I was the last, and was
just passing from under the branch when some-
thing struck the ground at my heel. I turned.
An apple must fall some time, and for this apple
that some time was then. It lay at my feet.



I SIX AND REPENT. Ill

I lifted it and stood gazing at it — I need not
say with admiration. My mind fell a-working.
The adversary was there, and the angel too.
The apple had dropped at ray feet ; I had not
pulled it. There it would lie wasting, if some
one with less right than I — said the prince of
special pleaders — was not the second to find it.
Besides, what fell in the road was public pro-
perty. Only this was not a public road, the
angel reminded me. My will fluttered from side
to side, now turning its ear to my conscience,
now turning away and hearkening to my im-
pulse. At last, weary of the strife, I determined
to settle it by a just contempt of trifles — and,
half in desperation, bit into the ruddy cheek.

The moment I saw the wound my teeth had
made, I knew what I had done, and my heart
died within me. I was self-condemned. It was
a new and an awful sensation — a sensation that
could not be for a moment endured. The
misery was too intense to leave room for re-
pentance even. With a sudden resolve born of
despair, I shoved the type of the broken law
into my pocket and followed my companions.
But I kept at some distance behind them, for as



112 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

yet I dared not hold further communication with
respectable people. I did not, and do not now
believe, that there was one amongst them who
would have done as I had done. Probably also
not one of them would have thought of my way
of deliverance from unendurable self-contempt.
The curse had passed upon me, but I saw a way
of escape.

A few yards further, they found the road we
thought we had missed. It struck off into a
hollow, the sides of which were covered with
trees. As they turned into it they looked
back and called me to come on. I ran as if
I wanted to overtake them, but the moment
they were out of sight, left the road for the
grass, and set off at full speed in the same di-
rection as before. I had not gone far before I
was in the midst of trees, overflowing the
hollow in which my companions had disap-
peared, and spreading themselves over the level
above. As I entered their shadow, my old awe
of the trees returned upon me — an awe I had
nearly forgotten, but revived by my crime.
I pressed along, however, for to turn back
would have been more dreadful than any



I SIX AND REPENT. 113

fear. At length, with a sudden tarn, the road
left the trees behind, and what a scene opened
before me ! I stood on the verge of a large
space of greensward, smooth and well-kept as
a lawn, but somewhat irregular in surface. From
all sides it rose towards the centre. There a
broad, low rock seemed to grow out of it, and
upon the rock stood the lordliest house my
childish eyes had ever beheld. Take situation
and all, and I have scarcely yet beheld one to
equal it. Half castle, half old English country
seat, it covered the rock with a huge square
of building, from various parts of which rose
towers, mostly square also, of different heights.
I stood for one brief moment entranced with,
awful delight. A building which has grown
for ages, the outcome of the life of powerful
generations, has about it a majesty which, in
certain moods, is overpowering. For one brief
moment I forgot my sin and its sorrow. But
memory awoke with a fresh pang. To this
lordly place I, poor miserable sinner, was a
debtor by wrong and shame. Let no one laugh
at me because my sin was small : it was enough
for me, being that of one who had stolen for
VOL. I. I



114 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

the first time, and that without previous de-
clension, and searing of the conscience. I hur-
ried towards the building, anxiously looking for
some entrance.

I had approached so near that, seated on its
rock, it seemed to shoot its towers into the
zenith, when, rounding a corner, I came to a
part where the height sank from the founda-
tion of the house to the level by a grassy slope,
and at the foot of the slope espied an elderly
gentleman, in a white hat, who stood with his
hands in his breeches-pockets, looking about
him. He was tall and stout, and carried himself
in what seemed to me a stately manner. As I
drew near him I felt somewhat encouraged by
a glimpse of his face, which was rubicund and,
I thought, good-natured; but, approaching him
rather from behind, I could not see it well.
When I addressed him he started.

" Please sir," I said, "is this your house?"

" Yes, my man ; it is my house," he answered,
looking down on me with bent neck, his hands
still in his pockets.

" Please, sir," I said, but here my voice began
to tremble, and he grew dim and large through



I SIX AND REPEXT. 115

the veil of my gathering tears. I hesitated.

" Well, what do you want?" he asked, in a
tone half jocular, half kind.

I made a great effort and recovered my self-
possession.

" Please, sir," I repeated, " I want you to box
my ears."

" Well, you are a funny fellow ! What should
I box your ears for, pray ?"

"Because I've been very wicked," I an-
swered ; and, putting my hand into my pocket,
I extracted the bitten apple, and held it up to
him.

" Ho ! ho !" he said, beginning to guess what
I must mean, but hardly the less bewildered for
that ; Ct is that one of my apples ?"

" Yes, sir. It fell down from a branch that
hung over the wall. I took it up, and — and —
I took a bite of it, and — and — I'm so sorry !"

Here I burst into a fit of crying which I
choked as much as I could. I remember quite
well how, as I stood holding out the apple,
my arm would shake with the violence of my
sobs.

i2



116 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

"I'm not fond of bitten apples," he said.
" You had better eat it up now."

This brought me to myself. If he had
shown me sympathy, I should have gone on
crying.

" I would rather not. Please box my ears."

" I don't want to box your ears. You're wel-
come to the apple. Only don't take what's not
your own another time."

"♦ But, please, sir, I'm so miserable !"

" Home with you ! and eat your apple as
you go," was his unconsoling response.

" I can't eat it ; I'm so ashamed of myself."

" When people do wrong, I suppose they
must be ashamed of themselves. That's all
right, isn't it f

" Why won't you box my ears, then V 1 per-
sisted.

Itjwas my sole but unavailing prayer. He turn-
ed away towards the house. My trouble rose to
agony. I made some wild motion of despair,
and threw myself on the grass. He turned,
looked at me for a moment in silence, and then
said in a changed tone —

" My boy, I am sorry for you. I beg you will



I SIX AND REPENT. 117

not trouble yourself any more. The affair is
not worth it. Such a trifle ! What can I do
for youf

I got up. A new thought of possible relief
had crossed my mind.

" Please, sir, if you won't box my ears, will
you shake hands with me ?"

"To be sure I will," he answered, holding
out his hand, and giving mine a very kindly
shake. " Where do you live I"

" I am at school at Aldwick, at Mr. Elder's."

" You're a long way from home !"

"Am I, sir? Will you tell me how to go?


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